Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are rare but potentially harmful tumors that can vary in their clinical presentation. Tumors may be found due to signs and symptoms, as part of a hereditary syndrome or following an imaging procedure.
To investigate potential differences in clinical presentation between PPGLs discovered by imaging (iPPGLs), symptomatic cases (sPPGLs) and those diagnosed during follow-up because of earlier disease/known hereditary mutations (fPPGL).
Prospective study protocol, which has enrolled patients from six European centers with confirmed PPGLs. Data were analyzed from 235 patients (37 iPPGLs, 36 sPPGLs, 27% fPPGLs) and compared for tumor volume, biochemical profile, mutation status, presence of metastases and self-reported symptoms. iPPGL patients were diagnosed at a significantly higher age than fPPGLs ( P < 0.001), found to have larger tumors ( P = 0.003) and higher metanephrine and normetanephrine levels at diagnosis ( P = 0.021). Significantly lower than in sPPGL, there was a relevant number of self-reported symptoms in iPPGL (2.9 vs 4.3 symptoms, P < 0.001). In 16.2% of iPPGL, mutations in susceptibility genes were detected, although this proportion was lower than that in fPPGL (60.9%) and sPPGL (21.5%). Patients with PPGLs detected by imaging were older, have higher tumor volume and more excessive hormonal secretion in comparison to those found as part of a surveillance program. Presence of typical symptoms indicates that in a relevant proportion of those patients, the PPGL diagnosis had been delayed.